Industrial competitiveness at risk
Stockholm, March 23, 2001 – Mr. Cees van Lede, Chairman of the Board of Management Akzo Nobel, expressed his serious concern about the lack of interest of younger people to study technical disciplines. This will lead to lower output of technically educated people and will in the long run threaten the competitive position of Sweden and the Netherlands. ‘This is not only a problem for these two countries or for Akzo Nobel, but for the European governments and industry as a whole. European economy needs these young engineers for its future.’ As a stimulus and as a way to make the study more attractive, Akzo Nobel offers 5 internships per year for Swedish students in the Netherlands and 5 for Dutch students in Sweden. The company made this offer during the ceremony at the Ingenjörsvetenskaps-akademien, IVA, where Professor Bengt Kasemo and Professor Ingemar Lundström received the Akzo Nobel Science Award.
The steady reduction of students electing technical disciplines as a university study is worrying. The technical knowhow accumulated in Sweden and the Netherlands is second to none in some specific fields. Too few people realize that worldwide the knowhow related to cellulose and derivatives is largely based on the scientific work done in Scandinavia. In the Netherlands there is a long tradition in pharmaceutical and fine chemicals research.
These are only a few examples where the industrial base of the two countries – and Akzo Nobel having a home base in both – can only be preserved by a constant flow of new ideas and new highly motivated students coming from the excellent technical schools in Sweden and the Netherlands. In Pharma, Sweden has already witnessed the exodus of many important firms and considerable know how related to that industry. Akzo Nobel has a major human and veterinarian pharmaceutical operation in the Netherlands. Naturally, it wants to preserve that base, but here again, it is critically dependent on new talented students being attracted in its home country. These talents can benefit from the international research network, which Akzo Nobel has expanded over the globe with emphasis on the United States and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Van Lede offered some ideas that attempt to redress this unwanted situation. Akzo Nobel has a program in execution called “Education Industry Partnership” (EIP) which stimulates the interests in the technical subjects at high school level. In order to further enliven the technical disciplines he offered to create internships, for promising students from Sweden to be executed in the Netherlands, and vice versa. Students can work for up to 6 months at one of the Akzo Nobel sites to familiarize themselves with the career options in this industry. Mr. Van Lede called on IVA in assisting to select the best candidates.
Akzo Nobel, based in the Netherlands, serves customers throughout the world with healthcare products, coatings and chemicals. Consolidated sales for 2000 totaled EUR 14 billion (USD 13 billion, GBP 8.5 billion). The Company employs approximately 68,000 people in 75 countries. Financial results for the first quarter of 2001 will be announced on April 25, 2001.